Colombia's Improved Healthcare
Colombia’s healthcare system has improved by leaps and bounds over the past few decades. The country has been able to provide its people with adequate healthcare coverage due to reforms it started making in the 90’s. Colombia offers a variety of healthcare plans to its people, including one that is public and the rest which are private. Also, Colombia is home to 40% of the best hospitals in Latin America.

Additionally, in 2018 and out of 191 countries, Colombia ranked 22nd in healthcare, according to the World Health Organization. To understand Colombia’s improved healthcare, it is important to highlight the process responsible for the success that the system currently enjoys.

The Process

The current state of Colombia’s healthcare traces back to 1993 with the introduction of Law 100. Law 100 stated that all citizens of Colombia, regardless of their financial state, are entitled to a comprehensive healthcare plan. This law created Colombia’s healthcare coverage system called the Sistema General de Seguridad Social en Salud (SGSSS). Colombia uses both general taxation and payroll contributions to ensure that the SGSSS continues receiving funding.

This reform has been beneficial to Colombians in several ways. Just in the first 10 years of the introduction of the SGSSS into law — the number of Colombian citizens that had healthcare coverage skyrocketed. Only 25% of Colombians were covered in 1993 and by 2003 that number was up at 75%. The percentage of people covered by the healthcare system has only risen since 2003. In 2007 about 90% of Colombians received coverage and in 2011, the percentage was at 95%. Other indicators of Colombia’s improved healthcare coverage system is in the country’s improved life expectancy and infant mortality. In 1993, with the introduction of the SGSSS, life expectancy was at 69 years. By 2015, the average life expectancy was at 74 years. The infant mortality rate in Colombia was 21 deaths per 1,000 births in the year 2000. In 2015 the infant mortality rate was down to 14 per 1,000 births.

Healthcare’s Impact on Poverty

Colombia’s improved healthcare has also been extremely beneficial to those living in poverty. For the poorest 20% in Colombia,  healthcare coverage was as low as 4% in 1993. This figure rose to 89% in 2016. Also, Colombians who live in rural areas have had an increase in coverage — rising from 6.6% in 1993 and growing to 92.6% in 2016. Moreover, Colombians all have the same types of health plans available to them. This means that any particular citizen has the same options available for them to choose from as any other citizen. Medical patients’ out-of-pocket spending on health services in Colombia is only at 14%. This figure is much lower than what most citizens in other Latin American countries pay.

A New Challenge

Colombia’s improved healthcare is a product of more than two decades of work and reform. The reforms have allowed many Colombian’s to have the healthcare they need, without the extreme costs. This includes all types of Colombians, regardless of their socio-economic standing. The only challenge to further reforms in Colombia is the growing population within the country. As the country grows so will the population and the amount of money the country spends on its healthcare system. This represents another challenge that the nation should bear in mind, going forward.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Unsplash